Inspiration. Is it a freight train or a butterfly?
For me, receiving inspiration feels like being struck with lightning wrapped in bacon, or being ambushed by the teasing scent of your favorite flower on your daily walk. Either way, it’s never the same place twice. Or arrives in the same way. Because it’s not just the world that changes in the blink of every eye; YOU change that quickly, too.
What has me musing on the subject of inspiration this morning? Last week I got to watch it in action. And it was sooooooo cool!
Writers like to observe things. We are The Watchers of things, and like the comic book characters, we store it all in our grey matter.
If we are smart writers, we make writing a habit. Even when we aren’t inspired; even if we don’ wanna. Even if we aren’t being paid for it, yet, we make some space in our lives that is writing time. Be it bed time, break time, the kid’s naptime, laundry day, Sunday, or every day, we set out some mental space to create with words.
I’ve had this mental writing space in the past, and I wanted it back, so I have worked for it over the last few months, with a lot of bad days and good days. Inspired days, and slog days. Golden thesaurus days, and obscenity dripping days. Numb-to-the-world days, and bleeding-in-gushes-and-spurts days. Writing days. You know, normal days, like everyone has.
So I had the good seats to watch myself receive inspiration. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer needs to get their name out into the world, and while exposure won’t pay the bills, it can lead to more opportunities. Yet another chance to submit to an anthology came up and for some reason it caught my eye, despite my failures in the past. I didn’t have anything that could be modified to fit the theme, so that meant I had to write something new. There is an open time limit on submissions, but it’s 2/3 full, so there is a bit of a race to submit before the slots are filled.
I began gathering bits of memory together; myths, stories, mental pictures, personal history, and remembered emotions. While discarding those bits that didn’t fit the anthology’s theme, I started fitting everything together, creating the “What if?” questions that will drive the story.
(BTW, I also realized the I do use a type of outline in my process, meaning things had to make sense to me to progress through the story, but it all happens in my head and is very amorphous until the plot is set with an internal logic. I’m not as much of a “pantser” as I thought. Huh.)
Flashes of lightning formed in the process, like the flashes you can see in a far off thunderstorm. Stark blue and white and amber lit my personal night sky, backed by the deep, moist grey and angry navy of storm clouds. The hidden alchemy of thought meeting thought. A part of me watched the process, and it was beautiful.
When the flashes slowed and weakened before I had a full plot, hook or twist, I posed a question to one of the writing groups I follow. The conversation helped, but I needed more. I posted to another group, and got a few takers, the conversation causing the “What if?” storm to roil and seethe, flashing like the strobe lights at an illegal underground dance club. I rubbed my hands together in glee, chuckling evilly, manic grin stretching my lips, as flashes of inspiration brought the story to life.
So, that is what inspiration feels like to me. I don’t know if I can write the story well enough. I don’t know if I will make the cut off before the slots are filled. I don’t know if it will be good enough to be accepted into the anthology, or I’ll be forced to shop for another home. What I do know, is that I have a new story. It’s in rough draft bits, crammed tightly together with notes, and in the wrong order, and some of it’s still in my head, and some of it needs research, and refining, and to be typed, and edited, revised, edited, again, and again.
But I have a new story I adore. That is the coolest feeling.
And I’m telling you the story of its creation so you might find some amusement or hope or even a bit of inspiration. That seems to be my thing as a blog writer, writing about writing to writers, to serve as an example, for better or worse. Let me open up my head for you to observe. Please, no touching. Or sneezing. Euwww!
I didn’t have a picture of bacon wrapped lighting, but this is the flower that stalks me like a ninja. Behold, the invasive, humble, and childhood-memory-infused Honeysuckle.